Researchers say children who have family dinners most days of the week have higher intakes of protein, fiber, calcium, and vitamins, but childhood obesity is still an epidemic. Benefits of a family meal can be undermined by poor dinner choices such as fast food. Instead of picking something up on the way home from school, pick up ingredients, and then cook as a family. Whenever possible, involve children in grocery shopping. Allow them to pick different fruits and vegetables that they will want to eat and share with other family members.
Eat at the dining room table. Turn off any electronic devices such as TV, computers, and cellphones. Provide adequate equipment for eating, such as small utensils and plates, which are practical but also appealing. During mealtimes, do not use plasticware that have cartoons because toddlers get distracted. Instead, use white plates and single color utensils to allow them focus and visualize the foods. Plates and cups with cartoons are appropriate for snack time.
Make sure the children are picking out their portions of food and that you are not serving them without asking them how much they want. Most importantly, do not institute the “clean plate policy”. If a child is full, allow them to recognize their satiety cues. Studies have shown that when parents actually force their children to finish everything on their plate, even if it’s fruits and vegetables, it really sets them up for some unhealthy eating behaviors into adulthood which can lead to obesity.
Lastly, avoid family style dinners with all the dishes of food set out at the table. This makes it easy to grab more food to eat just because it tastes good instead of the child actually being hungry for more.
Mohrmann, Jodi. (2014, June 30). “Do not institute the ‘clean plate policy'”. Retrieved from http://www.news4jax.com/news/do-not-institute-the-clean-plate-policy/26730292